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Who is feeling the heat?

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Coping with the sweltering heat during an intense heat wave can be extremely difficult and frustrating for anyone to endure. Especially when electricity shortages seem to be the norm in Nigeria, those with limited access to diesel generators may suffer greatly whenever the heat strikes.

The current heat wave is not the first that Nigerians have experienced, and it certainly will not be the last. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to extreme temperatures is on the rise globally, and the amount of those exposed to heat waves was raised by about 125 million from 2000-2016. Why is there this surge in exposure and why does the temperature seem to feel more brutal as compared to prior heat waves? The intensity of the heat may be higher on account of climate change, which according to the WHO makes the list as one of the current major threats to global health. During any heat wave, there is always a risk of certain heat related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Heat cramps can be one of the early symptoms of illness. It may occur after sweating and experiencing some changes in your fluid and electrolyte status. The condition results in transient spasms of the muscles which can be quite painful.Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps. When the body becomes overheated, symptoms such as profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, and headache may ensue. When the symptoms become more severe and progress to the stage of heat stroke, it is then deemed a medical emergency since it can be life threatening.

Heat stroke may occur when one’s body temperature increases to 40 degrees celsius and above. Exposing yourself to higher heat index temperatures for extended periods of time, places you at a much heightened risk for this problem.The health consequences of heat stroke include possible seizure, hallucinations, loss of consciousness, organ damage, and even death.

The aforementioned heat related illnesses may severely impact the elderly, young children, and those with chronic medical problems. But really, everyone must be careful during a heat wave and take measures to reduce the risk of illness.

Here are some factors you will want to consider to help you avoid illness:
1. Am I wearing appropriate clothing for the heat?
Wearing protective clothing is absolutely essential during a heat wave. Amidst very high and humid temperatures, you will want to ensure that you are wearing lightweight, soft, and loose fabrics. Think along the lines of cotton, linen, and silk materials. The color of the clothing you wear matters as well. If black is your favorite color, you are in for a bit of bad news. Dark colors absorb an increased amount of heat which can make you feel even hotter and contribute to more discomfort and irritability. So you’ll want to avoid wearing darker colors during a heat wave and opt for lighter shades.

2. Am I adequately hydrated?
You will want to ensure that you monitor your hydration status at all times, since severe dehydration can have a damaging effect on the body. If you start to feel lethargic, dizzy, or lightheaded during a heat wave, it is likely you are feeling some of the effects of dehydration. Other obvious symptoms may include increased thirst and very dry skin. But one of the most practical ways to monitor your hydration status is to simply take a look at the color of your urine; if it is very dark in color and concentrated then you are likely dehydrated. If that’s the case, drink water consistently throughout the course of your day.

3. Am I overexerting myself in the heat?
Overexertion in very hot weather certainly increases the likelihood of suffering from heat stroke and other heat related illnesses. Make it a point to avoid outdoor activity during high peak sun periods. Additionally, if you must be outdoors for any particular reason, then you must limit the intensity of your physical activity in addition to the duration of time spent outside.

4. Is my skin well protected?
One major myth about skin care for Nigerians or any other groups of African descent is that sunscreen is never necessary. It’s essential to recognize that repeated UV ray exposure from the sun may be quite damaging to the skin, and furthermore dark skin does not exempt one from the risk of skin cancer. Everyone should protect their skin from the sun’s UV rays by wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen daily.Other strategies to consider incorporating for sun protection include wearing a large brimmed hat, or using a large umbrella to help shield you from the sun while outdoors. Moreover, as we continue to battle the heat, remain cognizant of any symptoms that may sneak up on you and remember to seek medical care early on to avoid any health complications from heat exposure.


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Nesochi Okeke-IgbokweWHO
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